Real Estate –
The appeal of the coworking office – Part 1
We sit down with independent office space provider, Venaspace, commercial property provider, Bruntwood Works, and our own banking team to hear how the coworking office fared during lockdown.
The pandemic affected the work-life balance of millions of people owing to the Government’s lockdown, requiring us to work from home for many months. Whilst tricky for some, others realised that they were capable of doing their jobs remotely, with no need to commute to and from a central office every day, raising the question of the role of the office going forward. Will it be business as usual, or will our work lives be entirely different?
How has the Government’s lockdown affected the
perception and utilisation of the coworking office environment?
Alex Bonnet, CEO, Venaspace:
"Considering the Government’s stay at home order and the rules around social distancing, a reasonable assumption would be that coworking and flexible workspace must be struggling, which is far from the truth.
"Despite this being a very worrying time, we were fortunate enough to have entered the pandemic in a strong financial position. At first, we did have to dedicate resources to ensure invoices were paid, and expenses were kept to a certain level. It is important to bear in mind that in the beginning, some client rent payments were suspended and tenancy contracts were not renewed.
"It was not until after the first three months of lockdown that we saw demand pick up for our services to the point where we are performing better than we did pre-pandemic. We are now at 95% capacity in terms of office space let, and with that rental income has also increased, showing that there is a shift in business needs that the coworking space fulfils more so than before.
"Social distancing rules and the changing needs of businesses when it comes to office utilisation, now that a percentage of staff are likely to work from home, led us to split our larger offices into smaller units. This has proved to be one of the main reasons we performed strongly during the pandemic. Another factor to the coworking space popularity is that businesses may not have the resources to move or refurbish their existing premises enough for a post-lockdown world, so they turn to us, as we have all the state-of-the-art amenities, cover cleaning costs, IT infrastructure, signage and Covid ‘proof’ office.
"Naturally, the use of conference facilities has declined, and this is an industry-wide issue. However, for us at least, we found some solace in using the large conference suites for small socially distanced meetings."
Ciara Keeling, CEO, Bruntwood Works:
"We are witnessing an evolution of the workspace – nowadays, it is all about creating blended environments. People want vibrant, collaborative, and exciting spaces that allow them to build connections with their wider community, and coworking is a key part of that mix.
"This move towards blended spaces started long before the pandemic hit, but what we have really learned over the last 18 months is the value people place on social interactions and sharing new experiences with others and the value that businesses place on flexibility. As a product, coworking gives businesses this flexibility, whilst enabling their employees to access state-of-the-art amenities such as meeting rooms and event spaces - the government’s lockdown has merely accelerated its popularity.
"For me, coworking is an integral part of the hybrid working model. With lockdown restrictions easing, more people are splitting their time between home and the office, and they are looking for a space that suits their needs. Whether it is a cosy, quiet space to promote deep concentration or open, vibrant, and collaborative lounges with the bustling backdrop of a friendly coffee shop for meetings, coworking is perfectly placed to bring people back together safely.
"It is also proving popular with businesses of all sizes, from larger firms looking to support remote working, to freelancers seeking a professional setting. Many people have used lockdown as an opportunity to pursue their ambitions and set up their own businesses, so coworking offers these entrepreneurs a flexible first rung on the ladder as they grow and look to begin using office space."
Kevin Barrett, Managing Director of Banking, Arbuthnot Latham:
"The insights we have gained on the coworking space are really interesting, and it’s great to see that this sector flourished despite the events of the past 18 months or so. As we take steps to return to a pre-lockdown environment, it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens to office spaces and how companies adapt to provide the right kind of spaces for their employees."
Please visit our dedicated business recovery hub for more information aimed at supporting your business and your teams, as you transition to a post-lockdown working environment.
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